Rainforest conservation: a burning issue.

More on Amazon deforestation at mongabay.com.

Johan Eliasch, Swedish multi-millionaire, UK Conservative party donor and deputy treasurer and recent environmental philanthropist, is in hot water over his 2005 purchase of 625 square miles of Amazonian rainforest. He bought it for £13.7m from an American-owned timber company with the aim of protecting it from loggers. His first act was to close down the lumber mill in the town of Itacoatiara, with the loss of 1000 local jobs.

Obviously this hasn’t gone down well with the locals and Eliasch has now been accused of ‘green colonialism’. Mr Eliasch does not appologise for putting these people out of work but, says he did compensate them and is hoping to employ some of them as wardens. Local business and shops have suffered the knock on effects of the mills closure as well.

Plainly, it is not acceptable to affect peoples lives this way. Poverty does not help to save environments and the desperation of these families is not something Mr Eliasch can turn his back on. Of course buying up a sizable chunk of the rainforest to protect it is a laudable idea but, dumping the locals into poverty is short sighted and simply daft.

If Mr Eliasch doesn’t have the inclination and time to invest in alternative job creation (eg. eco-tourism; forest crops) then he can certainly afford to hire consultants (preferably Brazilian) to look into alternative economic options for the local peoples. If he doesn’t, Mr Miliband’s (UK Environment Secretary) idea to set up an international trust to help with the preservation of the Amazon with never see the light of day.

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14 Responses to Rainforest conservation: a burning issue.

  1. Pete Smith says:

    There’s a constant stream of bad news for the Amazon rain forest, or what’s left of it. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has announced a $350m project to pave the 600 miles of the BR-163 ‘highway’ that are still a dirt track. BR-163 is the main North-South route through the Amazon, and paving the remaining section will accelerate still further the rate of development and extraction of resources from the region. For the full story, see


    See also Newsnight on BBC2 Monday night 10:30 for a film about the project.

  2. matt says:

    It’s this sort of growth that says it all really;

    ‘The largest town on the unpaved section is Novo Progresso (pop. 40,000). The cattle herd here has boomed from 50,000 a decade ago to a million.’

    With a paved road the sky is the limit … until it all comes crashing down.

  3. Pete Smith says:

    The Observer article has a telling quote from a Brazilian farmer:

    “‘We did not destroy this region. We transformed this region from native vegetation to agricultural production. What you are seeing here is how we are supporting humanity. You cannot survive without eating food.”

    This is why I’m feeling pretty despondent right now about the future. I won’t be watching the Newsnight film tonight, because I know how it ends. The wave we’re riding is shaped not by governments or millionaires like Eliasch, but by countless individuals all beavering away to do their best for themselves and their families within their own horizons.

  4. matt says:

    Yes, I agree. It’s very scary.

    I can’t really see ‘Who’s watching who destroy this planet?’ any more. No one seems to be controlling anything. Maybe they (or the powers that be) never have. There are people in that article who can see what destruction is going on, even though they are a part of it. It saddens them but, they obviously don’t have an answer to the bigger picture which is, … How do we as a species stop destroying the hand that feeds us (iow, the environment). Maybe it will simply be a mad scramble until the last …. breath of fresh air, … the last drop of clean water ….

  5. Pete Smith says:

    Just so. We are after all only animals, with very strong survival instincts.

    Cheery conversation this 😦

  6. matt says:

    Isn’t it. But we do manage to keep things above the water line on this blog most of the time, which is no mean feat considering the topics covered! The BR-163 is however one of those tipping points and the world does seem to have reached a few of those lately.

  7. earthpal says:

    Hi guys. I’m afraid I share your pessimism. It’s seems to be a real no-win dilemma.

    Global Warming doesn’t recognise borders and it’s no respecter of wealth or poverty.

    But, as Pete said, we are animals and maybe it will be a case of survival of the fittest, natural selection etc.. The only thing is, how can we fight against a problem when we are the problem.

    Regarding Mr. Eliasch purchase of the rainforest in order to protect it from loggers, I read that he’s also invited scientists to search for plants that could be used for medicine. Of course anything discovered will be patented and sold to the highest bidder.

    Apparently, plots of rainforests everywhere are being bought up by billionaire’s who’ve suddenly developed an enviro-conscience. Thing is, once they own this plot, can they do what they hell they like with it? Are they free to develop on it? I mean will we eventually see holiday homes and tourist attractions popping up amidst the trees? And are they free to kill off any already endangered species that get in the way? That might sound too cynical and silly but wealthy tycoon-types can rarely resist a business opportunity.

    I don’t like the idea of privatising the Earth like this. Are they really doing it to conserve the rainforests?

  8. matt says:

    Earthpal. Good point regards the wealthy privatising large chunks of Rainforest, especially when they’re foreigners! I think this is why the UN needs to be central to managing such protected ‘land banks’ in the future. The land purchases can be funded by World Bank controlled carbon trading/credits, which they have a part in currently anyway. Alternative job creation should of course be a central part of these programmes.

  9. Pete Smith says:

    I have the same kind of misgivings about the wealthy buying up chunks of rainforest as I do about Russian crooks taking over British football clubs. Common problems: they have no sense of tradition, are only doing it as a hobby and get easily bored, are quite likely to pull the plug on the project and sell out to the highest bidder. Football clubs, like ecosystems, need someone who’s in for the long haul.

  10. matt says:

    We’ll all have to go aboriginal then Pete to get that respect for nature thing back;
    In our household we have got some way to go. We got two chickens last week. In typical chicken fashion they’ve taken over the backyard. All the family are fascinated with the new additions. Some are a little disconcerted that they shit anywhere they like. Clearly our back to nature trip is going to be a somewhat complicated experience! 🙂

    As to Russian football managers; I know of a very enticing but deadly cocktail. If you arrange the party ….

  11. Pete Smith says:

    He wouldn’t come, we had a falling out after he bought Shevchenko.

  12. Pete Smith says:

    Two chickens eh? Hope they’re both chooks, urban roosters cause strife.
    Stick them in a pen to control their movements (in all senses). Why not get them one of those cute cuddly designer houses?


    No fear of avian flu chez Matt obviously.

  13. matt says:

    Arh. Are they boys or are they girls. That is the $64m question. If they’re the former … off with their heads! Not into the designer house thing but they are fussy little characters or, is that a human angle that’s overcomplicating the matter!?

    As to the flu thing, we have signed up to a flu activation alert systematic shutdown scenario code; 1. flu suspected 2. receive text, email, phone call, letter & message by parachute from helicopter 3. sirens start wailing, chickens start flapping, humans run to their bunker (bought from Bush Terrorism Alert plc) and stay there eating canned food and watching sky digital, until the above steps process the all clear message.

    It’s not easy keeping chickens. 🙂

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